7 Madeira Wine Substitutes: Maderia Madness!

What are the best substitutes for Madeira Wine?

Are you looking for a Madeira Wine substitute? If you’re looking for a substitute for Madeira wine, you’ve got a few options depending on your recipe. If you need a sweet substitute, you can go with sweet Marsala wine or port. They will both bring a similar richness and sweetness. And if you need a dry alternative, try dry Marsala or sherry. They both have that fortified wine character that can complement dishes nicely. In a pinch, you can even use a mix of dry white wine and a bit of brandy to mimic some of the depth that Madeira adds. Need some more ideas? Okay, here’s our top suggestions for an alternative for Madeira Wine. Try using: Marsala, Port, Sherry, Dry White Wine, Brandy, Chicken or Vegetable Broth, Red Wine Vinegar mixed with Cranberry Juice.

What is Madeira Wine and where does it come from?

Madeira wine is a unique and fortified wine that hails from the Madeira Islands, which are part of Portugal. What does ‘fortified wine’ mean? Well it means a wine that has had a distilled spirit added to it, such as brandy. What makes Madeira wine stand out is its production process, where it undergoes heating and oxidation, usually in barrels, giving it a distinct flavor profile. The heat accelerates the aging process, resulting in a rich, complex taste with notes of caramel, nuts, and sometimes a hint of smokiness. It’s a versatile wine used not only for sipping but also in cooking to enhance sauces and dishes.

Okay, before we look at your Madeira Wine substitute options, let’s deal with that empty cupboard situation!

Where can I buy Madeira Wine?

If you want to be more prepared and ensure you don’t run out of Madeira Wine, then you should stock up now.

Nowadays, most liquor stores will stock Madeira Wine. However, we thought you might like this link for a super sampler pack of Holland House Cooking Wines. So why not jump on and place your order today.


Holland House Sampler Set – Cooking Wines

This sampler set contains 1 Red, 1 White, 1 Sherry and 1 Marsala.

The bottle size ensures you have enough to cook with, with no concerns around spoilage or wasteage.

What can I substitute for Madeira Wine

Here are some of the best alternatives to substitute the flavor and role that Madeira Wine provides.

  • Marsala
  • Port
  • Sherry
  • Dry White Wine
  • Brandy
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • Red Wine Vinegar mixed with Cranberry Juice

Madeira Wine substitutes


If you’re looking to swap Marsala for Madeira in your recipe, it’s a totally doable switch, but keep in mind that Marsala has a sweeter and richer flavor compared to the nuttier and drier profile of Madeira.

Marsala is a fortified wine hailing from Sicily, Italy. It comes in both dry and sweet varieties, making it perfect for use in both savory and sweet dishes. The dry Marsala is often used in savory recipes like sauces and stews, while the sweet version is more common in desserts.

Overall, it has a rich, deep flavor with notes of caramel, making it a fantastic addition to many dishes.

If you choose to use Marsala as a substitute, just use it in equal amounts as the Madeira called for in your recipe.

Marsala works particularly well in savory dishes like sauces and stews. If you want to get a similar taste to Madeira we suggest you use the dry Marsala variety. And remember to always taste as you go along to make sure it matches up with your flavor preferences.

Marsala as a substitute for Madeira.


Port is another delightful fortified wine that originates from Portugal, just like Madeira. It’s typically a sweet, red wine often enjoyed as a dessert wine or digestif. What makes port special is that grape spirits are added during the fermentation process, which stops it before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, leaving a sweet and rich flavor.

Did you know there are several different types of port, including ruby (youthful and vibrant), tawny (aged and mellow), and vintage (from a specific year and usually a bit pricier). People love using port in cooking, especially in sauces for meats and desserts. Or if you prefer you can just simply enjoy sipping it too!

If you’re thinking of substituting Port for Madeira in your recipe, it can work quite well, but remember it does have a slightly different flavor. Port tends to be sweeter and more robust, so you need to keep that in mind. To make the switch, use Port in a 1:1 ratio for the Madeira called for in your recipe.

If your recipe calls for sweet Madeira, opt for a ruby port, and for dry Madeira, a tawny port might be a good fit. Whether in savory dishes or desserts, Port can add a lovely depth and richness.

Port wine as a substitute for Madeira.


Sherry is another gem in the world of fortified wines! It actually comes from the sunny region of Jerez in Spain. Now, what makes sherry unique is its production process, which involves fortifying the wine with brandy. Sherry comes in various styles, ranging from dry to sweet, and it can be aged using a solera system, adding layers of complexity.

What is the solera system?

The solera system is actually quite interesting. Think of a series of stacked barrels or casks. The bottom row, known as the “solera,” contains the oldest wine or spirit. When a portion of this is ready for bottling, it’s only partially emptied, leaving a fraction behind. The next row, called the “first criadera,” is then topped up with newer wine or spirit. This process continues up through various criaderas, with the youngest barrels at the top.

This method allows the older liquid to influence and enrich the younger ones, creating a harmonious and well-rounded final product. Think of it like a perpetual blending process that imparts complexity and consistency to the beverage. The solera system is truly a work of art, ensuring a continuous supply of high-quality aged liquids.

Now back to using it as a substitute for Madeira

For cooking or as a substitute in recipes, the type of sherry you choose really does matter. Fino and Manzanilla are dry and excellent for enhancing the flavors of dishes like soups and seafood. On the other-hand Amontillado and Oloroso, which are a bit richer, can work well in heartier recipes and sauces. Sweet sherries, like Pedro Ximénez or Cream, are fantastic in desserts.

So, if your recipe calls for Madeira and you want to use Sherry as a substitute, just match the sweetness level and choose the one that will complement your dish.

The swap is really easy as all you need to do is use an equal amount of Sherry in place of the Madeira. Just remember that sherry has a distinct flavor profile—nutty, sometimes with a hint of sweetness or dryness—so it might give a slightly different taste to your dish.

No matter what, whether in sauces, marinades, or even desserts, Sherry can bring its own unique character to the table. So remember to experiment a bit, and always taste as you go.

Wine casket

Dry White Wine

You can use dry white wine as a substitute for Madeira in many recipes. While Madeira has its unique flavor profile, a dry white wine can provide a similar depth without the sweetness found in Madeira. When making the substitution, use the same quantity of dry white wine as the recipe calls for Madeira.

Remember that the flavor may not be an exact match, but it can work well in various savory dishes such as sauces, stews, and gravies.

If the recipe calls for sweet Madeira, you might want to add a touch of sweetness to your dish by adding a few other ingredients, like a bit of sugar or honey.

Feel free to experiment and adjust to your taste preferences.

White wine as a substitute for Madeira.


Brandy can be a great substitute for Madeira in some recipes, though it’s important to note that the flavor profiles are different.

As mentioned previously, Madeira is a fortified wine with a distinct taste, while Brandy is a distilled spirit. However, they do share some similar characteristics, and by using Brandy as an alternative it can bring a richness and complexity to your dish.

It is simple to use as a substitute as you just add Brandy in equal amounts to the amount of Madeira called for in your recipe. Remember that Madeira has a unique sweet and nutty flavor, so you might want to consider adding a touch of sweetness, like a bit of sugar or honey, to your dish if it originally called for sweet Madeira.

Brandy works very well in savory dishes, sauces, and certain desserts. Remember to always taste as you go to ensure the flavors align with your dish.

Brandy as a substitute for Madeira.

Chicken or Vegetable Broth

While chicken broth won’t replicate the wine-based richness of Madeira, it can still serve as a suitable substitute, especially if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic option or if Madeira isn’t available. However, when using chicken broth, keep in mind that it lacks the sweetness and complexity of Madeira, so your dish might be less nuanced.

To substitute, use an equal amount of chicken broth as the Madeira called for in your recipe. If your recipe calls for sweet Madeira, you might consider adding a touch of sweetness, like a bit of sugar or honey, to compensate for the absence of Madeira’s natural sweetness.

Chicken broth can work well in savory dishes like sauces, stews, or gravies, providing a different but still delicious flavor.

Chicken soup

Red Wine Vinegar mixed with Cranberry Juice

Another non-alcohol alternative to consider using is Red Wine Vinegar mixed with Cranberry Juice. This can add a unique and tangy flavor to your dish, however, it may not be an ideal substitute for Madeira. Madeira has a distinct sweet and nutty profile due to being a fortified wine, and the vinegar-cranberry mix might introduce a different level of acidity and tartness.

If you’re stuck and looking for a quick, creative alternative, you can try it, but just keep in mind that the flavor won’t precisely mimic Madeira. If you choose to use this mix as a substitute, start with a small amount, taste as you go, and be ready to adjust other elements in your recipe to balance out the flavors.

Red wine vinegar and cranberry juice

Summary for Madeira Wine substitutes

Okay – that’s you all sorted with suitable substitutes for Madeira Wine.

Here’s a quick summary of the various substitute options for Madeira:

  1. Marsala Wine: A sweeter and richer fortified wine from Sicily, Italy. Use it in equal amounts as Madeira in your recipe, and opt for dry Marsala for a closer match.
  2. Port Wine: A fortified wine from Portugal, available in various styles. Use it in a 1:1 ratio as a Madeira substitute, considering the sweetness level of the original recipe.
  3. Sherry: A fortified wine from Jerez, Spain, available in dry to sweet styles. Match the sweetness level of Madeira in your recipe and choose the sherry style accordingly.
  4. Dry White Wine: A versatile option with a different flavor profile. Use it in equal amounts, and if the recipe originally called for sweet Madeira, consider adding a touch of sweetness separately.
  5. Brandy: A distilled spirit with a rich flavor. Use it in equal amounts, understanding that it won’t precisely replicate Madeira’s taste.
  6. Chicken Broth: A non-alcoholic option that lacks the wine-based richness of Madeira. Use in equal amounts, and adjust sweetness if needed.
  7. Red Wine Vinegar with Cranberry Juice: A creative but less conventional option. Start with a small amount, taste as you go, and be ready to balance the flavors in your recipe.

We have gathered together a lot more facts on ingredients such as herbs, spices, oils, nuts, etc. if you would like to learn some more.

Or if you need to swap out another ingredient have a look at our Substitutes section.